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Q: Why does executive coaching work?
A: Executive coaching works when all the stars are aligned. And when it does work, organizations will see a transformational change in their executive’s mindset and behavior. Executive coaching is not a quick fix, however. An executive cannot be sent to a one-day training program and expect a transformation. Rather, executive coaching is a customized, interactive process that is conducted over the course of a few months until the mindset and behavior changes are ingrained.
There are four key components to executive coaching that garner transformational change:
In real estate the mantra is location, location, location. The critical aspect of coaching is rapport, rapport, rapport. An executive coach needs many competencies, but without good rapport between the coach and the executive, no amount of experience, education or certification will cause a transformation of the executive’s mindset and behavior. It is crucial that the executive trusts the coach and feels comfortable with the level of the coach’s in-depth probing. A contract for coaching should not be signed until both parties feel that connection.
A good executive coach will be the catalyst for the process by engaging with the executive to achieve the following:
If a prospective coach offers to jump in and fix the problem without exploring that connection, run, don’t walk, to another coach. Use the following competencies checklist to assess a coach:
Every situation requires different competencies. No one package of education, certification, experience or interpersonal skills will be right for every coaching endeavor. An executive who is dysfunctional may need a coach with psychotherapy credentials, but another situation will call for a coach with in-depth business experience. Select a coach with the competencies that fit the particular coaching situation.
Executives scoring low on emotional intelligence tests are not good candidates for coaching. For behavior change to take place, the executive must be open to feedback. Some defensiveness is to be expected, and a good coach can overcome this response in most candidates. Paranoia, extreme anger or other psychological disturbances, however, are signs that executive coaching will not work.
Trust in the coach and the organization is essential. The executive must see the coach as a competent, trusted advisor. To be open and honest, the executive also must trust that what is communicated during the coaching process is confidential and will not be shared with the organization.
In addition, the executive must be willing to commit to the process. Areas of commitment include setting aside time for meetings without cancellation, working on assignments (taking assessments, reading material, role playing, practicing behaviors), being forthright with the coach and communicating any organizational changes or feedback that may influence the coaching process. Commitment includes meshing personal goals with organizational goals.
Organization buy-in is more than paying the coach’s invoices. It starts with an honest assessment of the following questions:
Comprehensive Coaching Plan
Coaching without a plan is like choosing to drive on a random road without a map. If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? A coaching plan can support the communication and understanding that is needed among the organization, coach and executive. In addition, an effective coaching arrangement requires a customized agreement for each individual coaching situation—one that can be amended to address issues as they arise. The following are considerations that should be addressed in a typical coaching plan:
Not every executive is coachable, but those who are deserve to succeed, which they can do by mapping out a strategy that emphasizes coaching competence, executive and organizational buy-in and a coaching plan that maps out what the executive and coach are to achieve and how they are to achieve it. The effort put forth to build this plan will yield positive results for the executive and the organization.
Patricia A. Miller, SPHR, GPHR, is president of the Seven Valleys, Pa.-based organizational development consulting firm P.A. Miller Consulting. Pat has over 15 years’ consulting experience and is an adjunct professor at Penn State University, where she teaches business courses. She is a former member of the Society for Human Resource Management’s Organizational Development Special Expertise Panel and currently is the local York, Pa. SHRM chapter certification instructor. Pat is a contributor to TheWashington Post employment column, “Ask the Expert.” She can be reached at pat@millerHR.com.
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